Does It Really Matter Who the Next Palestinian President Is?

Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.

Gatestone Institute:

  • It is hard to understand why some Westerners believe that Abbas’s departure could boost the prospects of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. To many Palestinians, it is clear that the PLO or Fatah official who replaces Abbas will not be able to make any concessions to Israel. Any Palestinian leader who dares to make the slightest concession to Israel will be denounced as a traitor and will be lucky if he stays in power or stays alive.
  • The West needs to understand that no Palestinian leader is authorized to make concessions to Israel for the sake of peace. Neither the PLO nor the Fatah leaderships would ever approve of such concessions. And, of course, Hamas also will never accept any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, except one that leads to the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic empire in the region.
  • Saeb Erekat has been negotiating with Israel for the past two decades and his position has never changed. Like Arafat and Abbas, he too will never sign a peace agreement with Israel that does not include 100% of the territories captured by Israel in 1967. Erekat is not authorized to make any concessions on Jerusalem or the “right of return” for Palestinians to their former homes inside Israel.
  • Abbas’s successor will undoubtedly declare that he intends to follow in the footsteps of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas may go, but his legacy, like that of Arafat, will not.

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Iranian Nuclear Experts Take Samples From Parchin Without IAEA Inspectors Present, Atomic Agency Says

Samples were taken from the Parchin plant in Iran.

Samples were taken from the Parchin plant in Iran.

Iranian nuclear experts have taken environmental samples from the military base at Parchin without United Nations inspectors being present, the spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy agency was quoted as saying on Monday.

The procedure for taking the samples, which could shed light on whether Iran’s nuclear program ever had a military dimension, has been under intense discussion since Tehran reached a nuclear deal with world powers in July.

Read full story at Reuters.

Boosted by nuke deal, Iran ups funding to Hezbollah, Hamas

Operating on assumption sanctions will be lifted, Tehran increases support to proxies, while freezing out Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

Hezbollah fighters

Hezbollah fighters

The Times of Israel (Sep 22) — Since the deal was signed, Iran has significantly increased its financial support for two of the largest terror groups in the region that have become political players, Hamas and Hezbollah. In the years before the deal was signed, the crippling sanctions limited this support, which had significantly diminished along with Iran’s economy. But Tehran’s belief that tens, or hundreds, of billions of dollars will flow into the country in the coming years as a result of sanctions relief has led to a decision to boost the cash flow to these terror organizations.

This support, for example, has enabled Hezbollah to obtain highly developed new armaments, including advanced technologies that many militaries around the world would envy. Al-Rai, a Kuwaiti newspaper, reported Saturday that Hezbollah has received all the advanced weaponry that Syria has obtained from the Russians. The report cited a security source involved in the fighting in Zabadani, on the Syria-Lebanon border, where Hezbollah is fighting the al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State, and other groups. It is evidently the growing Iranian financial support that is enabling the Lebanese Shiite militia to purchase advanced weapons, including ones that were hitherto outside of its reach.

The increased Iranian financial support for Hezbollah in the wake of the deal is not unrelated to other political developments in the region. The growing sense of security in Iran with regard to its political status has also been bolstered by a Russian decision to increase its involvement in Syria, and may be what drove Iran to send hundreds of members of its Revolutionary Guard Corps to play an active role in the Syria fighting. Iran, along with Hezbollah and Moscow, has decided to dispatch sizable forces to the Syrian front in the past few weeks to prevent the collapse of Bashar Assad’s regime.

The Shiite-Russia axis has been anxiously watching the Islamic State creep toward Damascus in recent months, and saw the territory controlled by Assad, an important ally, diminished to the coastal region of Latakia south of the capital. The Iranians and Russians grasped that not only was Damascus endangered, but also access to the Alawite regions, from Homs to Damascus — thus the urgency for intervention, including with troops on the ground…

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Why the Right is right

An excellent video that properly explains why conservatism works.

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What makes conservatism right? If you’re a conservative, you should know why you’re right. If you’re not a conservative, why should you think about becoming one? Greg Gutfeld, bestselling author of, “How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct”, explains.

The Hypocrisy of Boycotting Israel

This is an incredibly well-written and well-argued article about the issue of boycotting Israel.

From the Facebook page of Knesset Member Yair Lapid, head of the Centre-Left Yesh Atid party. (Originally published in Icelandic, in Visir and Frettabladid)

Yair Lapid: The Hypocrisy of Boycott (September 19, 2015):
As you know by now, the Reykjavik City Council decided this week to boycott products from Israel. All products. From all of Israel.

I have a few questions:

Does the boycott include products made by Israel’s Arab minority which is 20% of the population?

Does the boycott include the 14 Arab Israeli parliamentarians who sit beside me in Israel’s parliament?

Does the boycott include Israeli factories which employ tens of thousands of Palestinians for whom this is the only opportunity to provide for their children?

Does the boycott include Israeli hospitals at which tens of thousands of Palestinians are treated every year?

Does the boycott include produce made by the 71% of Israeli’s who, according to the latest survey, support a two state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel?

Wait, don’t go yet, I’ve got a few more:

Among the products being boycotted is Copaxone, for MS sufferers, included?

Does the boycott include “Tulip” wine which is made by people with special needs and those who suffer from autism?

And what about the books of Israeli Nobel Prize Laureate in literature, Shai Agnon?

Does the boycott include Microsoft Office, cellphone cameras, Google – all of which contain elements invented or produced in Israel?

If the answer to all these questions is “yes” then I’ll move aside and wish you all an enjoyable life until the sadly unavoidable heart attack (sorry but pacemakers are also an Israeli invention). The other option is that someone at Reykjavik City Council didn’t think the issue through.

If they had then why stop at Israel? One of the best kept secrets about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that it is one of the smallest conflicts in the Middle East. In fact, there is no correlation between its actual size and the media coverage it receives.

Since the end of Israel’s War of Independence, 67 years ago, around 12,000 Palestinians have lost their lives in this conflict. A large proportion of those were terrorists, suicide bombers, terror tunnel diggers from various global jihadist organizations.

With that we can’t ignore the fact that in those years there were a few thousand innocents who lost their lives. I believe that’s terrible. It keeps me awake at night, like most Israelis. With that the simple fact is – and it’s easy to check – that in 67 years less innocent Palestinians were killed than in one week (!) in Syria. In fact, in that same period around 12 million people were killed in the Arab world. A simple calculation shows that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict caused 0.01% of the numbers killed in conflicts in the Islamic world.

An interesting question then is what is the position of Reykjavik City Council about the Islamic world? Do they boycott it also? All of it?

But of course this isn’t a discussion about statistics, it is about morals. Israel is a vibrant democracy fighting for its existence in tough circumstances. Our major sin, in the eyes of the world and the Reykjavik City Council, is that we are winning that war.

Yes, in this conflict more Palestinians are killed than Israelis. Why? Because we have a better army and we have the Iron Dome system which protects our cities from rockets. If our military lays down its weapons and we disarm Iron Dome, we’d be murdered within 24 hours.

So Israel will continue to defend itself, and will continue doing all it can to avoid civilian casualties.

At the same time, we will continue to search for the path to peace with the Palestinians. Twice, in the year 2000 and in the year 2008, Israel offered them over 90% of the land so they could build a state for themselves. Both times they refused.

The boycott industry is not new. It is a vast industry of media and public relations organized by Islamist groups funded by Qatar and Iran. Their purpose is not the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel but a Palestinian state on the ashes of Israel.

They know that message won’t be acceptable to liberal Europe. So they decided – as has been exposed time and again – to sell the naïve Europeans humanitarian values of freedom and solidarity which they don’t believe for even one second.

Hamas has no intention of creating a Palestinian democracy but a dark theocracy in which homosexuals are hanged from telephone poles, women aren’t allowed to leave their homes and Christians and Jews are murdered for being Christians and Jews. Are those values acceptable to the Reykjavik City Council? If not then that’s strange, because they voted in favor of them.

Click here for original source.

Abbas: We won’t allow Jews’ “filthy feet”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in a speech this week that the Palestinians would not allow Jews to desecrate the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem with their “filthy feet,” Palestinian Media Watch reported yesterday.

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Yesterday, Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas described Jews on the Temple Mount as “filth”:

“The Al-Aqsa [Mosque] is ours… and they have no right to defile it with their filthy feet. We will not allow them to, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem.”

In his speech, parts of which were broadcast on official PA TV and posted on his personal website, Abbas also glorified Palestinians fighting against Israel in Jerusalem who are killed in the fighting. Abbas promised that Allah will reward those who “will not allow” Jews to “defile” Jerusalem.

Abbas’ speech came in the wake of Palestinian rioting earlier this week on the Temple Mount, including during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. According to The Jerusalem Post, the violence intensified after Israeli officials banned the presence of “the Murabitun and Murabatat male and female Islamist activist groups, which gather on the Temple Mount to intimidate and shout at Jewish visitors on a daily basis.” On a tour of the Temple Mount last month, a congressional delegation including Reps. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.), and Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) witnessed a group of Jewish visitors to the holy site being accosted by the groups.

Access to the Temple Mount was restricted today and the Knesset authorized the deployment of 800 additional Border Patrol troops to Jerusalem amid Palestinian calls for a “day of rage.” (via

The PA has in the past referred to Jews as “filth,” as Palestinian Media Watch has documented repeatedly. Jews praying at the Western Wall were called “sin and filth” by PA TV:

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Two young girls reciting a poem stating that Jerusalem “vomits” out Jews, who are “impure” were also broadcast on PA TV.

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Click here for full article and more videos of anti-Semitism propaganda by the Palestinian Auhtority.

UN Gives Palestinians Flags, But No Democracy

Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.

Gatestone Institute (Sep 17):

  • The vote in favor of hoisting the flag is not going to bring democracy, freedom of expression and transparency to the Palestinians.
  • The vote at the UN concerning the Palestinian flag came amid increased human rights violations by both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas. But since when does the UN care about human rights violations committed by the PA and Hamas against their own people?
  • Who cares if Hamas arrests Fatah voters and candidates as long as a Palestinian flag is raised in front of the UN? The UN considers raising a Palestinian flag more important than demanding an end to human rights violations by the PA and Hamas. No UN member states bothered to denounce the Hamas crackdown and the obstruction of the Fatah election.
  • The countries that voted in favor of the motion do not really care about the needs and interests of the Palestinians. The vote was mainly directed against Israel — to taunt Israel rather than help the Palestinians move closer towards building an independent state.
  • A Palestinian living in the West Bank or Gaza Strip does not really care if his flag is flown in front of a UN building. For Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, there are more urgent matters such as the harsh economic conditions and the repressive measures of the Hamas regime.
  • Hamas wants the world to continue believing that the Palestinians are still unable to rebuild their homes because of Israeli “restrictions” and lack of international funds. That is why the journalists who tried to cover the removal of the debris were physically assaulted and detained for interrogation.
  • The situation under the PA in the West Bank is not any better with regards to human rights violations. Almost every day, PA security forces arrest several Palestinians and hold them without trial.

Click here for full article.

Khamenei-run conglomerate one of Iran deal’s biggest winners

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

The Times of Israel (Sep 16) — One of the main beneficiaries of the easing of sanctions on Iran in the framework of the nuclear deal reached with world powers in July will be Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to a Reuter’s investigation, sanctions relief includes the lifting of restrictions on one of the most secretive and wealthy organizations in the Islamic Republic, the “Setad Ejraiye Farmane Hazrate Emam,” also called Setad or EIKO.

Founded in 1989, the network’s assets were estimated in 2013 at some $95 billion and are controlled exclusively by Khamenei himself.

The nuclear accord lifts secondary sanctions – that is, sanctions on non-US companies that do business with the Iranian conglomerate – on Setad itself and some 40 companies it owns in whole or part, the news agency reports.

Under the terms of the deal, Setad is to be removed from the US Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, allowing it to open overseas bank accounts and other take other financial actions outside Iran without its partners risking US sanctions.

US companies, financial institutions and individual citizens are still forbidden from dealings with the conglomerate.

Setad “has little connection to Iran’s nuclear program but is close to Iran’s ruling elite,” Reuters reports. Its delisting thus “feeds into US Republicans’ criticism that the deal will empower Iran’s hardliners and help fund its regional ambitions.”

US sanctions on Setad were introduced in June 2013 as an attempt to pressure Khamenei personally to back the then-stalled nuclear talks with world powers.

The conglomerate “produces billions of dollars in profits for the Iranian regime each year,” said then-under secretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence David Cohen at a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

The sanctioning of Setad was intended to put pressure on Khamenei personally. While it is not clear if his own net worth will change, Setad serves as a key arm of his power. Its assets were estimated in 2013 to be worth some $95 billion, largely built from the “systematic seizure of thousands of properties belonging to religious minorities, business people, and Iranians living abroad,” Reuters says.

Click here for full article.

Op-Ed: Solving the Middle East’s Problems

This article is a must read if you want to understand the sources of all the problems in the Middle East.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University. He served in IDF Military Intelligence for 25 years, specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena.

IsraelNationalNews (Sep 13) — The world keeps asking itself why the Arab Spring was such a dismal failure, trying to get to the source of the region’s problems. The answer to this question is complex, because it includes different factors that influenced events at different periods and in different ways.

Still, one can say with certainty that the main source of all the troubles is the cornerstone of Middle Eastern culture, tribal loyalties, once necessary for survival in a vast dry and arid desert area spanning the Sahara in North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Sinai Desert, and also the deserts of Syria, Iraq and Jordan. In the desert man must be part of a tribe in order to protect his water sources from other tribes who are also in need of water. That fact turns the “other” into an enemy, a threatening figure who is against “us” because he is not one of “us.”

It is always “us” and “them”, our group against all the others. every man loyal to his tribe to the death, to its customs and traditions and not to a state or the state’s laws and institutions. It is called “tribalism” and the Arab world still lives under the influence of this way of life.

The second problem, spawned by tribalism, is violence. Middle Eastern culture says that since the other is an enemy, he may try to kill me as soon as he gets near enough to take my water sources, so I have to get him before he gets me.

It follows that the first reaction to any problem that arises in the Middle East is violence, violence aimed to kill.

The third problem evolving from the ancient tribal culture is the Middle Eastern concept of honor. No Muslim will accept humiliation, and he who is humiliated will seek revenge against those who caused him shame – and that revenge means murder. A person is willing to murder members of his own household, his sister and even his mother, if they have brought shame upon him by acting too freely. Honor takes first place in relations between politicians and nations, is sometimes more important that development, economics and health.

The fourth problem, also a result of tribalism, is corruption. Appointing relatives to positions in a regime – nepotism – is considered a serious problem in the West, and there are laws, rules and bureaucratic procedures that are supposed to prevent its occurrence. In Middle Eastern culture, nepotism is the name of the game, both in the political and public spheres, because anyone in power has a basic distrust of anyone from another group. A leader will appoint his family, or members of another family with whom he has a pact of loyalty, to the positions under his patronage and if the relations between the families deteriorate, he will either fire them or make sure they resign..

The fifth problem is economic corruption.  A government official feels beholden financially to his family and tribe, not to the state and certainly not to other population groups in the country, so he allocates funds for investment in infrastructure in the area his tribe resides in or areas filled with his supporters. He does not allocate funds to groups that did not support him. As far as he is concerned, they can go to hell – or Europe – as they wish.

The sixth problem is the existence of a large number of ethnic groups in the Middle East: Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Berbers, Jews, Arameans, Persians, and more. Often the groups live in a state of ongoing friction, their relations marked by hostility rather than tranquillity. As a rule, they do not intermarry, and each group fiercely guards its dialect, customs and traditions. Each group delineates itself by defining its enemies. That is the source of the violence between the Arabs and the Kurds, the Turks and the Kurds, the Arabs and the Berbers – and let’s face it, the Arabs and everyone else.

The seventh problem is religion. Islam is the main religion of the Middle East, and Islamist extremists see members of other religions who live in their proximity as infidels deserving of death. This is the cause of the horrific violence of Islamists against Christians, Yazidis, Jews, Alawites, Zoroastrians, Bahais, Mandeans, Shabakists, Druze and atheists.

The eighth problem is the internecine sectarian conflict within Islam. In the middle of the seventh century, Islam split into two parts, the Sunnis and the Shiites. Their struggle is really about wresting control over Islam, but over time the struggle has assumed a religious cast with each side making use of Allah, the Qur’an, the Hadiths (Oral Law), Sharia, history and theology for its own ends, so that Sunni Islam is now quite different from Shia islam. There is a case for claiming that, similarities notwithstanding, they are two distinct religions. The two groups have  spent the centuries since the split massacring one another, with millions sacrificed  in this endless struggle, not a few during the 1980s war between Shiite Iran and Iraq, headed by a Sunni, Saddam Hussein.

The ninth problem is the prevailing culture. Schematically, the Middle East’s population is made up of three cultural groups: the desert-dwellers, or Bedouin, the falakhim – farmers who live in villages – and the urban population dwelling in cities. These groups differ in many ways from one another and each is prone to stereotyping the others to the point where there is no way to get around their mutual preconceptions. The falakh hates the Bedouin for stealing the agricultural produce he reaps by the sweat of his brow. The Bedouin considers the falakhs and city dwellers inferior to him for giving up the original Arab desert way of life and becoming weak and lily-livered in mind and body. The city dwellers consider the Bedouin primitive desert people. Marriages between the groups are rare.

The tenth problem can be laid at the door of British, French and Italian colonialism. These powers drew borders that suited their interests but had no bearing on the sociological zones of the Middle East. This is how countries were formed with populations of all kinds of ethnic groups, tribes, religions and sects who had never had any connection with one another and certainly never saw themselves as members of the same nation. Although Syria has existed for decades (that verb should be in past tense) there was no national Syrian consciousness uniting its citizens. They remained Arabs, Kurds, Turkmans, Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Shia, Sunni, et al. Iraq also did not succeed in creating an Iraqi people despite great efforts expended on the part of the regime, and its citizens defined themselves as Kurds, Sunni, Christians, Yazidi, etc. The colonialists actually created what their citizens considered illegitimate countries foreign entities forced upon them by Christian European strangers who understood absolutely nothing about the Middle East.

The eleventh problem is the modern Arab regime. In each Arab country a minority group has gained control of the entire country and preserves its power by using a “mighty hand and an outstretched arm”, a drawn sword – and subterranean torture chambers.The Alawite minority in Syria, the Qaddafi tribe in Libya and the Hashemites of Jordan are all examples of small groups that control others with little legitimacy, if any.

The twelfth problem is Israel, a small country that was established as a result of the fall of the Ottoman Empire in WWI and the end of British colonialism, two world developments that made it possible for the Jews to return to the historical land of their birth after two thousand years of exile.

In general, Arabs and Muslims do not recognize the right of the Jewish people to its land, do not recognize Judaism as a living religion, and view the Jews as a collection of communities belonging to whatever country they are in and not as a people. The very existence of the state of Israel infuriates them, no matter what its size.

The rulers of the modern Arab states, with both ruler and state lacking legitimacy, were in dire need of an external enemy that would enable them to silence internal opposition and unite the people as one under their fraudulent flag. Israel was a unifying factor, an external enemy that served as the scapegoat upon which the masses could vent their rage. That is what is behind the constant hostility of the Arab media regarding Israel, and three generations of Arabs have been raised on this propaganda machine aimed solely at Israel. Their approach to Jews and Israelis is a direct consequence of this inciteful propaganda.

The thirteenth problem is oil. This important resource turned the Arab companies in the gulf to societies that sell a commodity, do not work, purchase but do not create, societies whose every possession stems not from ability, studying or work, but from what others – the Americans and the Europeans – found under their earth.  The biggest effort the men of the Gulf have to expend is the walk to the bank to deposit their checks. Easy money created a materialistic, hedonist society, busy with itself and with having fun, buying luxury cars, houses that strike you blind, designer clothing, watches that cost millions and designer jewellery, showing off in the media and buying every gadget that reaches the stores. Just opposite their palatial homes are tens of millions of Egyptians and other Arabs living in abject poverty, in unplanned neighborhoods, filled with the ignorant, unemployed and despairing poor. The gap between the wealth of the Gulf and the poverty in the Arab street is mind-boggling.

The fourteenth problem is the West’s meddling in Middle Eastern affairs, not in order to solve the region’s problems, but in order to promote its own interests. Oil, gas, arms sales, development contracts, purchases and  trade, all are intended to take advantage of the natural resources of the Middle East and of the cheap labor it offers in order to advance western economies. The countries of the West, the USSR and today’s Russia and China, protected and still protect non-legitimate Arab rulers, keeping them dependent on the West and the economic agreements signed with them.

Anyone who signs any kind of contract with an Arab ruler knows full well that this contract will be carried out at the price of the people who live – if you can call it living – under a cruel regime, but that doesn’t stop the money hungry Western countries. Since when did moral considerations ever move them?

The fifteenth problem is the existence of  al Jazeera, the Jihad website and network run by a terror state, Qatar. From the first day it hit the air in November 1996, al Jazeera spends its time unrestrainedly inciting against dictators, Israel, against the West and against the Western culture slowly finding its way into the airspace of Islamic countries.

Al Jazeera’s stated objective is to destroy the modern Arab state and hand over the rule to the Muslim Brotherhood. This mixed salad of messages is wrapped in attractive clichés such as “opinon and other opinion” and is covered with a mask of openness and video editing. This channel brought the angry people out into the streets at the end of 2010 and all through 2011, setting the Arab world ablaze, but it does not know how to put out the fire. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other social networks played an instrumental role that helped the public organize demonstrations, but the motivation came from al Jazeera‘s incitement.

The seething mass of problems that plague the Middle East have destroyed the region’s’ social, economic, political and normative infrastructure, leading to the waves of emigration to Europe that we are now witnessing. During the twentieth century, Europe tried to solve the myriad cultural problems that beset the Middle East by creating the Modern Arab State, cloning the Nation-State it had invented and that suited Europe’s cultural needs. The European-style Modern Arab State is a colossal failure, because the Arab population has a Middle Eastern culture, with problems that Europe knows nothing about – tribalism on the one hand, and violence, extremism and a lack of national consciousness on the other.

A striking example of an egregiously mistaken belief held by the West is the naïve and unfounded faith that democracy can flourish in the Middle East. Western democracy is based on a social order stemming from European culture: the belief in equality for all religions and ethnic groups, women’s liberation, minority rights and freedom of expression and thought. Add to that the right to choose alternative lifestyles, along with freedom of religion and from religion, a ban on violence and free elections and you have a list that is almost totally foreign to the Middle East. Most of these freedoms are opposed to the spirit of Islam or to tribal culture, but Middle Eastern societies hold “free” elections to create  the impression that they have become democracies, although they have not adopted any of the other characteristics of a democracy. Elections are an easily adopted mechanism, but the other elements of democracy are substantive and are therefore difficult, or impossible, to embed in the Middle East.

Click here for full article.

Daniel Pipes: Middle East Provocations and Predictions

Daniel Pipes is known for accurately predicting events in the Middle East. If you want to truly understand what is happening and what is going to happen in the Middle East this article is a must read.

The Mackenzie Institute (Sep 9) — The Middle East stands out as the world’s most volatile, combustible, and troubled region; not coincidentally, it also inspires the most intense policy debates – think of the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Iran deal. The following tour d’horizon offers interpretations and speculations on Iran, ISIS, Syria-Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, and Islamism, then concludes with some thoughts on policy choices. My one-sentence conclusion: some good news lies under the onslaught of misunderstandings, mistakes, and misery.


Iran is Topic No. 1 these days, especially since the nuclear deal the six great powers reached with its rulers in Vienna on July 14. The “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” seeks to bring Tehran in from the cold, ending decades of hostility and inducing Iran to become a more normal state. In itself, this is an entirely worthy endeavor.

The problem lies in the execution, which has been execrable, rewarding an aggressive government with legitimacy and additional funding, not requiring serious safeguards on its nuclear arms program, and permitting that program in about a decade. The annals of diplomacy have never witnessed a comparable capitulation by great powers to an isolated, weak state.

The Iranian leadership has an apocalyptic mindset and preoccupation with the end of days that does not apply to the North Koreans, Stalin, Mao, the Pakistanis or anyone else. Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i et al. have reason to use these weapons for reasons outside of the normal military concerns – to bring on the end of the world. This makes it especially urgent to stop them.

Economic sanctions, however, amount to a sideshow, even a distraction. The Iranian government compares to the North Korean in its absolute devotion to building these weapons and its readiness to do whatever it takes, whether mass starvation or some other calamity, to achieve them. Therefore, no matter how severely applied, the sanctions only make life more difficult for the Iranian leadership without actually stopping the nuclear buildup.

The only way to stop the buildup is through the use of force. I hope the Israeli government – the only one left that might take action – will undertake this dangerous and thankless job. It can do so through aerial bombardment, special operations, or nuclear weapons, with option #2 both the most attractive and the most difficult.

If the Israelis do not stop the bomb, a nuclear device in the hands of the mullahs will have terrifying consequences for the Middle East and beyond, including North America, where a devastating electromagnetic pulse attack must be considered possible.

To the contrary, if the Iranians do not deploy their new weapons, it is just possible that the increased contact with the outside world and the disruption caused by inconsistent Western policies will work to undermine the regime.


The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh) is the topic that consumes the most attention other than Iran. I agree with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, that Iran is a thousand times more dangerous than ISIS. But ISIS is also a thousand times more interesting. Plus, the Obama administration finds it a useful bogeyman to justify working with Tehran.

Emerging out of almost nowhere, the group has taken Islamic nostalgia to an unimagined extreme. The Saudis, the ayatollahs, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and Shabaab each imposed its version of a medieval order. But ISIS went further, replicating as best it can a seventh-century Islamic environment, down to such specifics as public beheading and enslavement.

This effort has provoked two opposite responses among Muslims. One is favorable, as manifested by Muslims coming from Tunisia and the West, attracted moth-like to an incandescently pure vision of Islam. The other, more important, response is negative. The great majority of Muslims, not to speak of non-Muslims, are alienated by the violent and flamboyant ISIS phenomenon. In the long term, ISIS will harm the Islamist movement (the one aspiring to apply Islamic law in its entirety) and even Islam itself, as Muslims in large numbers abominate ISIS.

One thing about ISIS will likely last, however: the notion of the caliphate. The last caliph who actually gave orders ruled in the 940s. That’s the 940s, not the 1940s, over a thousand years ago. The reappearance of an executive caliph after centuries of figurehead caliphs has prompted considerable excitement among Islamists. In Western terms, it’s like someone reviving the Roman Empire with a piece of territory in Europe; that would get everybody’s attention. I predict the caliphate will have a lasting and negative impact.

Syria, Iraq, and the Kurds

In certain circles, Syria and Iraq have come to be known as Suraqiya, joining their names together as the border has collapsed and they have each simultaneously been divided into three main regions: a Shiite-oriented central government, a Sunni Arab rebellion, and a Kurdish part that wants out.

This is a positive development; there’s nothing sacred about the British-French Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 which created these two polities. Quite the contrary, that accord has proven an abject failure; conjure up the names of Hafez al-Assad and Saddam Hussein to remember why. These miserable states exist for the benefit of their monstrous leaders who proceed to murder their own subjects. So, let them fracture into threes, improving matters for the locals and the outside world.

As Turkish-backed Sunni jihadis fight Iranian-backed Shi’i jihadis in Suraqiya, the West should stand back from the fighting. Neither side deserves support; this is not our fight. Indeed, these two evil forces at each others’ throats means they have less opportunity to aggress on the rest of the world. If we do wish to help, it should be directed first to the many victims of the civil war; if we want to be strategic, help the losing side (so neither side wins).

As for the massive flow of refugees from Syria: Western governments should not take in large numbers but instead pressure Saudi Arabia and other rich Middle Eastern states to offer sanctuary. Why should the Saudis be exempt from the refugee flow, especially when their country has many advantages over, say, Sweden: linguistic, cultural, and religious compatibility, as well as proximity and a similar climate.

The rapid emergence of a Kurdish polity in Iraq, followed by one in Syria, as well as a new assertiveness in Turkey and rumblings in Iran are a positive sign. Kurds have proven themselves to be responsible in a way that none of their neighbors have. I say this as someone who, 25 years ago, opposed Kurdish autonomy. Let us help the Kurds who are as close to an ally as we have in the Muslim Middle East. Not just separate Kurdish units should come into existence but also a unified Kurdistan made up from parts of all four countries. That this harms the territorial integrity of those states does not present a problem, as not one of them works well as presently constituted.


Erdoğan Pasha as imagined by The Economist.

Erdoğan Pasha as imagined by The Economist.

The June 2015 election turned out not so well for the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP), the party that’s single-handedly been ruling Turkey since 2002. It’s an Islamist party but more importantly of late, it is the party of tyranny. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, its dominant figure, does as he wishes, gaining undue influence over the banks, the media, the schools, the courts, law enforcement, the intelligence services, and the military. He overrides customs, rules, regulations, and even the constitution in the block-by-block building of a one-man rule. He’s the Middle Eastern version of Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez.

For the most part, Erdoğan has played by democratic rules, via elections and parliament, which has served him well. But the June election could spell the end of his self-restraint. Long ago, when mayor of Istanbul, he signaled that he ultimately does not accept the verdict of elections, stating that democracy is like a bus: “You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off.” He has now reached that destination and appears ready to step off. He has initiated hostilities against the Kurdish PKK group as an ugly electoral tactic (to win over Turkish nationalists); he might go so far as to start a war between now and the Nov. 1 snap elections, taking advantage of a constitutional provision deferring elections in time of war.

Accordingly, the June electoral setback will not prove much of an obstacle to Erdoğan, whose path to tyranny remains open.

Erdoğan’s undoing will likely not be domestic, nor will it concern a relative triviality like votes; it will be foreign and concern larger issues. Precisely because he has done so well domestically, he believes himself a master politician on the global stage and pursues a foreign policy as aggressive as his domestic one. But, after some initial successes of the “Zero problems with neighbors” policy, Turkey’s international standing lies in tatters. Ankara has bad relations or major problems with nearly every neighbor: Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Egypt, Greek Cyprus, Turkish Cyprus, and Greece, as well as the United States and China. Some foreign escapade will likely be Erdoğan’s undoing.


In November 2000, Ehud Barak said that Israel resembles “a villa located in a jungle.” I love that expression; and how much truer it is today, with ISIS on Israel’s Syrian and Sinai borders, Lebanon and Jordan groaning under unsustainable refugee influxes, the West Bank in anarchy, and Gaza approaching the same?

Everyone knows about Israel’s high-tech capabilities and military prowess. But much more about it is impressive bordering on extraordinary.

Demography: The entire modern, industrial world from South Korea to Sweden is unable to replace itself demographically, with the single, outstanding exception of Israel. Societies need roughly 2.1 children per woman to sustain their populations. Iceland, France, and Ireland come in just below that level, but then the numbers descend down to Hong Kong with its 1.1 children per woman, or just over half of what’s necessary for a country to survive long term. Well, Israel is at 3.0. Yes, the Arabs and the Haredim partly explain that high number, but it also depends on secular Tel Aviv residents. It’s nearly unprecedented development for a modern country to have more children over time.

Energy: Everyone knows the old quip about Moses taking a wrong turn on leaving Egypt. Well no, it turns out he didn’t. Israel has as large an energy reserve as—get this—Saudi Arabia. Now, this resource is not as accessible, so it’s far more expensive and complex to exploit than Arabia’s enormous and shallow pools of oil, but it’s there and Israelis will someday extract it.

Illegal immigration: This is a brewing crisis for Europe, especially in summertime, when the Mediterranean and the Balkans become highways from the Middle East. Israel is the one Western country that has handled this problem by building fences that give control over borders.

Water: Twenty years ago, like everyone else in the Middle East, the Israelis suffered from water shortages. They then solved this problem through conservation, drip agriculture, new methods of desalination, and intensive recycling. One statistic: Spain is the country with the second-highest percentage of recycling, around 18 percent. Israel does the most recycling, at 90 percent, five times more than Spain. Israel’s now so awash in water that it exports some to neighbors.

In all, Israel’s doing exceptionally well. Of course, it is under the threat of weapons of mass destruction and the delegitimization process. But it has a record of accomplishment that I believe will see it through these challenges.

Islamist Ideology: Three Types

Islamists can be broken down into three main forces:

Shiite revolutionaries: Spearheaded by the Iranian regime, they are on the warpath, relying on Tehran’s help, apocalyptic ideology, subversion, and (eventually) nuclear weaponry. They want to overturn the existing world order and replace it with the Islamic one envisioned by Ayatollah Khomeini. The revolutionaries’ strength lies in their determination; their weakness lies in their minority status, for Shiites make up just 10 percent or so of the total Muslim population and further divide into multiple sub-groups such as the Fivers, Seveners, and Twelvers.

Sunni revisionists: They deploy varied tactics in the common effort to overthrow the existing order. At one extreme stand the crazies – ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Shabaab, and the Taliban, hate-filled, violent, and yet more revolutionary than their Shiite counterparts. The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates (such as President Erdoğan of Turkey) fill the middle ground, using violence only when deemed necessary but preferring to work through the system. Soft Islamists like Fethullah Gülen, Pennsylvania’s Turkish preacher living in self-exile, forward their vision through education and commerce and work strictly within the system, but whose goals, despite their mild tactics, are no less ambitious.

Sunni status-quo maintainers: The Saudi state heads a bloc of governments (GCC members, Egypt, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco), only some of which are Islamist, that wish to hold onto what they have and fend off the revolutionaries and revisionists.

Islamist Tactics: Violent vs. Lawful

Violent Islamists, Shiite and Sunni alike, are doomed. Their attacks on fellow Muslims alienate coreligionists. They challenge non-Muslims in precisely those areas where the latter are strongest; the combined might of the military, law enforcement, and the intelligence services can crush any Islamist uprising.

Islamist violence is counterproductive. Its drumbeat quality teaches and moves public opinion. Murderous assaults move opinion, not the analysts, the media, or politicians. An incident like the Charlie Hebdomassacre in Paris moves voters over to anti-Islamic parties. Blood in the streets teaches. It’s education by murder.

In contrast, lawful Islamists working within the system are very dangerous. They are seen as respectable, appearing on television, appearing as lawyers in courtrooms, and teaching classes. Western governments mistakenly treat them as allies against the crazies. My rule of thumb: The less violent the Islamist, the more dangerous.

Therefore, were I an Islamist strategist, I’d say, “Work through the system. Cut the violence except on those rare occasions when it intimidates and helps reach the goal.” In fact, the Islamists are not doing this, to their detriment. They are making a major mistake, to our benefit.

Islamism in Decline?

The Islamist movement could be on the way down due to infighting and unpopularity…

Click here for full article.

Khamenei: Israel won’t survive next 25 years

Taking to Twitter, Iranian leader says Zionists won’t find serenity until destruction, calls US ‘Great Satan’ and rejects any talks with Washington beyond nuke deal

The Times of Israel (Sep 9) — Israel will not survive the next 25 years, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday, making a series of threatening remarks published online.

In a quote posted to Twitter by Khamenei’s official account, Khamenei addresses Israel, saying, “You will not see next 25 years,” and adds that the Jewish state will be hounded until it is destroyed.

The quote comes against a backdrop of a photograph apparently showing the Iranian leader walking on an Israeli flag painted on a sidewalk.

“After negotiations, in Zionist regime they said they had no more concern about Iran for next 25 years; I’d say: Firstly, you will not see next 25 years; God willing, there will be nothing as Zionist regime by next 25 years. Secondly, until then, struggling, heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment of serenity for Zionists,” the quote from Iran’s top leader reads in broken English.

The quote was apparently taken from a speech given earlier in the day.

The remarks came as US lawmakers began to debate supporting a recent nuclear agreement between Tehran and six world powers. Critics of the deal have pointed to fiery anti-US and anti-Zionist rhetoric as proof that the regime should not be trusted.

The White House and other deal boosters argue that the pact, meant to keep Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, is based on verification, not trust.

khamenei twKhamenei’s statements also reaffirmed his view that the US is a “Great Satan” and that there would be no detente with Washington beyond the nuclear talks.

“We approved talks with the United States about [the] nuclear issue specifically. We have not allowed talks with the US in other fields and we [do] not negotiate with them,” Khamenei said in statements published on his website.

On Twitter, Khamenei said talks with the US were a “means of infiltration and imposition of their wills.”

Click here for full article.

ISIS smuggler: ‘We will use refugee crisis to infiltrate West’

WND (Sep 6) — As the migrant-train standoff entered its second day in Hungary, with thousands of mostly Syrian refugees seeking passage to Germany, it’s time the West recognized this shift in Muslim populations for what it is, say American activists who have been warning of a “fifth column” for years.

isis_fightersAuthor Robert Spencer wrote Sept. 4 in Front Page Magazine, “This is no longer just a ‘refugee crisis.’ This is a hijrah.”

Hijrah is the Islamic doctrine of migration, which is a form of stealth jihad.

“To emigrate in the cause of Allah – that is, to move to a new land in order to bring Islam there, is considered in Islam to be a highly meritorious act,” Spencer wrote. He cited the following Quranic text:

“And whoever emigrates for the cause of Allah will find on the earth many locations and abundance,” says the Quran. “And whoever leaves his home as an emigrant to Allah and His Messenger and then death overtakes him, his reward has already become incumbent upon Allah. And Allah is ever Forgiving and Merciful” (Quran 4:100).

And now, looking at Europe and America, a migration invasion of a much greater magnitude is underway.

Evidence of that invasion came in February when an ISIS operative confirmed what many already suspected – the Islamic State is using the refugee crisis to form a fifth column of Muslim fighters inside Western nations.

The Syrian operative claimed more than 4,000 trained ISIS gunmen have already been smuggled into Europe – hidden among innocent refugees, reported the Express, a British newspaper.


The Islamic State operative spoke exclusively to BuzzFeed on the condition of anonymity and is believed to be the first to confirm plans to infiltrate Western countries, although similar statements have been made through unconfirmed ISIS Twitter accounts.

ISIS is believed to be actively smuggling covert gunmen across the 565-mile Turkish border and on to wealthier European nations, the smuggler told BuzzFeed.

He said ISIS now has more than 4,000 fighters “ready” throughout the European Union.

ISIS operatives are taking advantage of Western nations’ generosity toward refugees to infiltrate Europe, he said.

The ISIS fighters use local smugglers to blend in and travel within the ranks of a tidal wave of illegal migrants flooding into Europe, both by boat from North Africa and on land through Hungary and Austria into Germany, Belgium and Sweden.

Persecuted Christians stay behind

More than 1.5 million have migrated into Turkey alone, with millions more refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and outside their homes in Syria itself. Almost all of the migrants flooding into Europe are Muslims.

Most of the Christians have been hiding in churches and homes in the Middle East, afraid to venture to the United Nations refugee camps, which tend to be managed by Muslims, WND has previously reported.

“The Christians are afraid to venture into these camps, because they believe they will be harmed” said George Marlin of Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic group that is sending aid to persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

From Turkish cities such as Izmir and Mersin, the Muslim refugees venture across the Mediterranean aiming for Italy, the smuggler said.

Then the majority head for the most welcoming nations – Sweden and Germany – turning themselves over to authorities and appealing for asylum.

Plans to conquer Europe from within

The jihadist smuggler said ISIS has laid ambitious plans for the future of Europe.

“It’s our dream that there should be a caliphate not only in Syria but in all the world,” he said, “and we will have it soon, God willing.”

“There are some things I’m allowed to tell you and some things I’m not,” he said.

The revelation came just days after a spokesperson for Islamic State called on Muslims in the West to carry out terror attacks.

The jihadist told Western followers if they had the opportunity to “shed a drop of blood” in Western countries – then they should do so.

Click here for full article.

Report: 12 UNRWA-linked Facebook Accounts Incite Antisemitism & Violence

UN Watch (Sep 3) — UN Watch released a new report today documenting 12 different Facebook accounts operated by UNRWA officials (see images below) that openly incite to antisemitism and terrorism, and urged UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UNRWA chief Pierre Krähenbühl to terminate the responsible officials, condemn the offending posts, and establish a commission of inquiry, comprised of representatives of top donor states (see chart at right), to investigate the culture of impunity for perpetrators of racism and incitement that pervades UNRWA.

“The pattern and practice of UNRWA school principals, teachers and staff members posting antisemitic and terror-inciting images suggests a pathology of racism and violence within UNRWA that must be rooted out, not buried, as UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness has attempted to do by calling for boycotts of newspapers or NGOs that report these incidents of hate,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a non-governmental Geneva watchdog organization.

“The UN must recognize that these disgusting posts, published on Facebook accounts run by people who identify themselves as UNRWA officials, constitute a gross violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits “incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence,” said Neuer.

“Enough of the UNRWA strategy of impunity, denial and deflection. It’s time for the perpetrators to be held to account. They must be fired — immediately.”

Screen-Shot-2015-08-28-at-12.35.40-PMThe Islamic legend depicted above features in Article 7 of the Hamas Charter“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews and kill them, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”

Ramy-Alshorbasi-Screenshot-Cartoon-Jews-laughing-milkAbed Abuashraf, on the same Facebook account where he identifies himself as an UNRWA official, advocates peeling Israel off the world map, to be violently replaced by a Palestinian state, in the two images that he posted below, on July 10 and 13, 2014.

Abed-Abuashraf-Screenshot-Cartoon-Israel-peeled-back-to-reveal-PalestineAbed-Abuashraf-Screenshot-Cartoon-Violent-imagery1Nasreen Hammoud, who on her Facebook page says that she works for UNRWA, uploaded this cartoon (below) to Facebook on August 2, 2014. Israel, characterized by a man wearing a bib emblazoned with a Star of David, is seen feasting on a helpless Palestinian child with the aid of a U.S. Star-Spangled fork, and drinking his blood.

Nisreen-Hmood-Screenshot-Cartoon-Israel-eating-PalestiniansClick here for full report.

Palestinians: Turning Refugee Camps into Weapons Warehouses

By Khaled Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim, who is a veteran award-winning journalist who has been covering Palestinian affairs for nearly three decades.

Smoke from explosions rises from Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, Aug. 25, 2015

Smoke from explosions rises from Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Lebanon, Aug. 25, 2015

The Gatestone Institute (Sep 2):

  • Most of the Palestinian camps in Lebanon and Syria have long served as large weapons warehouses controlled by various militias belonging to different groups. This has been happening while the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which is formally in charge of the refugee camps, continues to look the other way.
  • The 120,000 Palestinians living in Ain al-Hilweh are “unfortunate” because they are not being targeted by Israel. Otherwise, there would have been an international outcry and the UN Security Council would have held an emergency session to condemn Israel and call for an immediate cessation of hostilities. Instead, Ain al-Hilweh may soon fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State terrorists.
  • The Syrian Army has also been dropping barrel bombs on the camp almost on a weekly basis. But because Israel cannot be blamed, Palestinians killing Palestinians is not something that the international media and community are interested in.
  • Instead of admitting their responsibility for turning the camps into military bases, Palestinian leaders often prefer to blame others, preferably Israel, for the plight of their people.

Click here for full article.

Hamas raiding Gaza woodworkers to rebuild tunnels

Facing a shortage of building supplies amid increased Israeli scrutiny, group resorts to confiscation of materials as it races to replace network

A tunnel found in the Northern Gaza Strip by the Israel Defense Forces, August 3, 2014. (photo credit: IDF spokesperson/ Flash90)

A tunnel found in the Northern Gaza Strip by the Israel Defense Forces, August 3, 2014. (photo credit: IDF spokesperson/ Flash90)

Times of Israel (Sep 1) — Israeli officials accused Hamas on Tuesday of confiscating building materials sent into the Gaza Strip and using them to rebuild its attack tunnel infrastructure.

Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of Israeli government activities in the territories, accused the group of misappropriating supplies – particularly wood – for its terror activities.

“Members of Hamas took over warehouses of construction materials and confiscated (them) for the benefit of the group’s underground infrastructure,” Mordechai said in a statement.

In an unorthodox operation Monday night, members of Hamas’s military wing raided a large number of carpentry shops and woodworking factories throughout the Gaza Strip and confiscated enormous quantities of lumber, apparently to shore up tunnel building efforts, Palestinian sources said.

Hamas is suffering from a shortage of basic tunnel-building materials such as wood, which is used to line the inside of its tunnels. The seizure was apparently intended to replenish the organization’s supply.

The operation was not this first of its kind. Hamas has resorted to such action before, due to the increased Israeli scrutiny on wood and other building materials transferred into Gaza as the Palestinian enclave tries to rebuild following the devastation caused by 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

In recent months Hamas operatives have began taking various steps to replenish tunnel building materials. In addition to the raids, the group has also cut down dozens of trees to manufacture planks. These are increasingly used to reinforce the insides of tunnels in the place of the concrete used before Protective Edge.

The shortages faced by Hamas in materials and machinery may slow its progress in the reconstruction of its vast tunnel network, which serves for both attack and defensive purposes. This is despite its massive investment in the enterprise, with hundreds of men working 24 hours a day to rebuild the infrastructure, most of which was destroyed by Israel in 2014.

Mordechai noted that Israel has allowed 1.7 million tons of construction material into Gaza since the end of last year’s summer conflict. The misuse of the resources by Hamas, he said, did not only increase the terrorist threat from Gaza but was also delaying any efforts to rebuild the territory.

Click here for original source.

Lebanon, the Country that has Turned into a Garbage Dump

Lebanon, once the paradise of the Middle East, has become a large rubbish dump.

lebanon garbageBy Mordechai Kedar for IsraelNationalNews (Aug 28) — Sanitation services in Beirut have been at a standstill for several weeks due to labor disputes and endless arguments about the proposed location of garbage dumps. No one in the city will agree to having a dump in his backyard and for that matter, anywhere in his neighborhood. Thousands of tons of smelly trash are piled up in the city, and the hot weather that has hit the area over the last few weeks has made them even more unbearable than usual. A joke going around Beirut says that the price of clothespins is rising, as people have been buying them to stop up their noses.

The trash problem is also the result of a non-functioning officialdom. The government of Tamam Salam does not seem to be able to make any decisions, the parliament has not been able to appoint a president for over a year, and even the parliamentary elections have been put off in the legal vacuum that prevails. Lebanon is barely functioning, its citizens have no recourse. Their protest against the sanitation removal situation is really a protest against their dysfunctional state.

Add to that the population’s furor at the rampant corruption in government corridors that has been going on for years, but it is clear that the main problem paralyzing Lebanon’s government is that one basic truth lies behind everything that happens in the country: the fact that nothing, absolutely nothing, can happen in Lebanon without Hezbollah’s sanctioning it. That terror organization has turned into the largest, most organized and most influential entity in the country. It would not be an exaggeration to call it a “state within a state”. Hezbollah has significant economic power, including many public companies that deal with infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, construction, communications, water and electricity.

And Hezbollah is not alone. Iran stands right behind it. Opposing it are the Christians, Sunnis, Druze and some Shiites who are against Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon, backed by Saudi Arabia. The growing tension between Iran and the Saudis over the nuclear agreement with international powers has spilled over into Lebanon, causing the rival groups to widen the chasm between them. Everyone knows how the billions of dollars that Hezbollah will probably receive from Iran as a result of the agreement will be spent. The terror group will be able to buy politicians, media personalities and the media itself, in addition to arms and weapons, making their control over all of Lebanon just a question of time.

The large demonstrations in Beirut that erupted last week are a reflection of the situation. The army – that obeys Hezbollah’s orders – killed four protestors and wounded scores of them. The army surrounded the government’s offices with a concrete wall in order to protect the buildings, but the citizenry used the new barrier to post their protests.

Among the graffiti on the wall were some that are particularly interesting: “Our thanks to the government for providing us with the paper to voice our protests”; “There are monsters on the other side of this wall”; “The Class-Separation Wall”; “The Wall of Shame”; “The Wall of Oppression”; “I prefer to live on the border with Israel”; “You stink”‘; “The Theft Authority Pimps”‘ (= a takeoff on the expression in Arabic for “Ministerial Council meetings)”. In fact, Facebook has a new Lebanese account named “You stink.”

On one of the news websites a Lebanese citizen wrote: “Demonstrators must break into Dahiya (the southern suburb of Beirut, a Hezbollah stronghold), the shameful Shiite suburb, filled with those who collaborate with Iran and Russia – and behead the snake.” The reference is clearly to Hassan Nasrallah, who involved Lebanon in the Syrian conflict, which many, including Shiites, consider an unnecessary war. Nasrallah is careful to repeat that “we are in the place we are supposed to be” meaning the battlefields of Syria. A Lebanese took this mantra and drew it on a trashcan with Nasrallah in its center.

The one feeling shared by all the different ethnic groups in Lebanon is the sad realization that the Syrian conflict is going to reach them in the near future. There are constant clashes in the northern city of Tripoli between the Sunni neighborhood Bab al-Tabbaneh that backs the Syrian rebels and the Alawite neighborhood Jabal Mohsen that backs Assad. This has been going on since 2011 and scores of people have been killed in these clashes.

In Ain El-Helweh, the southern Lebanese Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon, Fatah militants are battling the Islamic group Jund al-Sham over the demands of the Islamists to allow them to draft residents to aid the rebels in Syria. Fatah is opposed to that for fear that Hezbollah will take revenge on the Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon it they join the rebels, the way Assad did to the Palestinians in the Yarmouk camp who did not help him fight the rebels.

The tensions among the Palestinian factions raise tensions in other refugee camps in Lebanon. The fear is that other camps will find themselves embattled soon enough.

Lebanon is on the brink of an abyss where every unusual event can ignite a civil war worse than the one that took place from 1975 to 1989. Israel, Europe and the rest of the world must be prepared for this eventuality, because the flood of refugees from Lebanon will rival that of Syria, while the Syrian atrocities may repeat themselves in that hapless country.

Click here for original source.